CD Review of Wolf Tracks: The Very Best of Los Lobos by Los Lobos

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Wolf Tracks: The Very Best of Los Lobos
starstarstarstarstar Label: Rhino
Released: 2006
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Putting together a best-of album for a band with 14 relevant albums and 30 years under its belt is a daunting task. Couple this with the fact that 99% of the listening audience is familiar with only one of their songs (“La Bamba”, which is a Ritchie Valens cover) and that a good portion of their catalog is in Spanish, and you have a risky venture. Wolf Tracks: The Very Best of Los Lobos presents the band as it should: a musically diverse, yet ethnically strong set of songs that showcases the band’s influences of traditional Mexican, country, blues, and rock music.

Opening the album much as they opened their mid ‘80s breakthrough concert on MTV, with two very Mexican songs “Let’s Say Goodnight” and “Anselma,” the collection sets the pace of a rich ethnic taste of Chicano culture in Los Angeles. Opening with two backyard dance anthems is a very relevant introduction to the band’s sound. The album moves on to include not only their hit “La Bamba” but a very respectable round of traditional storytelling songs like “A Matter of Time” and “One Time one Night,” covering both ends of the immigration and assimilation of the Chicano against a very Mexican/American jangle rock sound.

La Pistola y El Corazon, the band’s all-Spanish offering, is well represented, including the heavy mariachi sound of the title track; one of the saddest songs ever penned, but which unfortunately loses everything in the translation. The album wraps with some of the material that is more accessible to mainstream American audiences, including “Good Morning Aztlan” and “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.”

If you have heard your hipster friends talking about Los Lobos, but you have not heard them yet, this is your golden ticket. If you have their entire catalog already, this is the perfect road trip mix tape, without all the taping bits. Noticeably missing are two Lobos anthems, “Sabor a Mi” and “Estoy Sentado Aqui.” Ah, well, you can’t have it all.

~Sergio Ruiz